Kidney disease can affect many aspects of your health. These complications may be caused by the disease itself or by its treatment (for example, side-effects of medications).

Even if you are on dialysis or have had a kidney transplant you may experience symptoms.

Increasing your awareness about possible symptoms associated with kidney disease is important, because many of them can be prevented or reduced. Treatments are available for most symptoms, so don’t hesitate to talk to your healthcare team if something is bothering you.

You can find more information in our fact sheet 'Common kidney disease symptoms and management which you can download here.

You may also find our reference book  'Living with Kidney Failure' helpful as it contains treatment advice for a range of common symptoms which may be experienced with kidney disease. You may buy this book in 'Books and publications' in our Resource Library.

Anaemia

Anaemia can lead to tiredness, shortness of breath, dizziness, depression, confusion, feeling cold, trouble sleeping, and lack of appetite.

This is because there aren’t enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body.

For people with kidney disease, some of the common causes of anaemia are hormone or vitamin imbalances, blood loss due to repeated blood tests, surgery, or from dialysis, or medication side-effects.

Bone disease

With kidney disease, bone pain, weak bones that break easily, itchy skin and joint pain are all signs of an imbalance in calcium and phosphate.

When calcium and phosphate levels are not balanced, the body also makes too much parathyroid hormone, which further damages the bones.

Tiredness

Tiredness may be a direct result of decreasing kidney function.

It may also be due to the side effects of medications, or other physical conditions such as anaemia, depression, insomnia or sleep apnoea.

Insomnia

Insomnia is when you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or you don’t feel refreshed after sleeping.

There are many possible causes, including waste build-up before dialysis is started, inadequate dialysis, itchiness, restless legs syndrome, muscle cramps, mood and state of wellbeing.

Mouth & dental problems

Many people with kidney disease report changes in their mouth, such as having a bad taste and smell, dry mouth, loose teeth, inflammation of the mouth, and gum disease.

Some of these symptoms are caused by kidney disease but others can be caused by medications and other aspects of your treatment.

Muscle cramps

Muscle cramps, particularly leg cramps are common symptoms of kidney disease.

Sometimes people experience cramps during or after haemodialysis, especially if their blood pressure drops following the removal of too much fluid.

Nausea, vomiting & lack of appetite

Feeling like you’re going to be sick (nausea) and actually being sick (vomiting) are commonly experienced by people with kidney disease.

There are many possible causes, such as build-up of wastes and toxins in the body due to not enough dialysis, or side-effects of medications.

As well as affecting your quality of life, ongoing bouts of nausea, vomiting and lack of appetite can mean you aren’t eating enough food to stay healthy.

Receiving adequate nutrition is important, so discuss treatment options with your healthcare team.

Constipation & diarrhoea

There are many causes of constipation (hard stools) and diarrhoea (loose stools).

These include diabetes, infections, some medications and specific bowel conditions. For people with kidney disease, being on dialysis and the associated diet and fluid restrictions may also alter bowel habits.

Constipation causes stomach pain, bloating and nausea, while ongoing diarrhoea can cause many problems, so it’s important to manage your bowel habits well.

Pain

Body pain is a common symptom of kidney disease.

The pain may be in the muscles, bones or joints, such as osteoarthritis; nerve pain, such as pain in the feet and calves that can occur with diabetes; or tissue pain.

Useful fact sheets and other helpful information can be found in our Resource Library.

Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is a common problem of the nervous system. When you are trying to rest, your legs feel as if they want to exercise or move, making it hard to relax or sleep.

People have described restless legs syndrome as a crawling, creeping, prickly, tingling, itching, burning, pulling or shock-like sensation. The problem can vary from a minor irritation to a severe condition. You may find that your arms are also affected.

The cause of the syndrome isn’t clear but there appears to be a problem with the function of a chemical in the central nervous system.

It can be worsened by low iron levels or inadequate dialysis.

You can find more information in our fact sheet 'Common kidney disease symptoms and management'.

You can also find information on Restless Legs Syndrome here.

Other fact sheets and other helpful information can be found in our Resource Library.

Skin & hair problems

There are a number of symptoms of kidney disease related to skin and hair health.

Bruising
It’s not uncommon for people on dialysis to bruise easily, as waste products that are not removed from the body by the kidneys can affect the functioning of the clotting cells, called platelets. Medication used to thin the blood, or low platelet levels, can also cause bruising.

Hair loss
Malnutrition, particularly low protein levels, can cause hair to break more easily and fall out. Hair loss can also be linked to other causes, such as thyroid problems, zinc deficiency, medication side-effects and changes in dialysers.

Itchiness
Itchy skin, or pruritus, is a commonly reported side-effect of kidney disease. The cause of pruritus is not always known. Discuss the various different treatment options with your healthcare team.

Skin dryness
When kidney function is reduced, skin glands produce less oil and perspiration. This makes the skin drier and can increase itchiness.

You may also find our reference book  'Living with Kidney Failure' helpful, as it contains treatment advice for a range of common symptoms which may be experienced with kidney disease. You may buy this book in 'Books and publications' in our Resource Library.

Health & wellbeingDiet & nutrition
Join our community to download